Posted by: Lizzie Ross | September 6, 2010

Book banning and the US Courts

David, The Death of Socrates

The ALA has a brief history of court cases, covering not just First Amendment rights (freedom of speech), but also freedom to read, minors’ rights, freedom of expression in schools, religious freedom, and “new technologies”.

“Brief” might not be the best word here–the list is long, although each item on the list is sketchily summarized. The ALA has kindly included references and links at the bottom if you want to research any particular case in more detail.

A quick skim of the list reveals shifts in values and concerns over the past 90 years or so: Shakespeare is there (Merchant of Venice) and Dickens (Oliver Twist), the King James Bible, lots of books by Vonnegut, Catch 22, George Carlin (those 7 infamous words), and a raft of others.

If I were younger and interested in writing another dissertation, I’d do something with this list — perhaps going further back. Surely there were works from the 1800s, the 1500s, the 1000s, perhaps even further back, that got their authors into trouble. After all, it was his ideas that earned Socrates his cup of hemlock.

Is it a good thing, or a bad thing, that humans have evolved so little over the past 2400 years?

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